Sunday, 7 July 2013

Constructive Criticism: Know When to Drop Your Gavel

So, I was through with what I had to do in Abuja. My transit was from Gwagwalada to Central Business District, Area 1 and Jabi. Abuja seemed like a mix of Lekki Peninsula, Victoria Island and select portions of Ikoyi with wider and better road networks and traffic systems. Unlike the former capital of the Nigerian republic, the mistakes made in planning Abuja were obviously few. When it was time to leave, I halted a third cab at section 2 of Area 1. It was driven by a Hausa-looking Yoruba man. Once I spoke to him in Yoruba, he did not charge more than 400bucks to transport me to ABC transport’s office in Jabi.

Inside the Bus
            I had paid for my ticket (seat 17) and was finding my seat together with the woman whose seat number indicated that she would be my seat mate. Finally, we found the seats with the assistance of one of the officials but there was an older woman, whom I sensed to be in her early fifties, occupying one of the seats. Her ticket showed seat 27 but she intentionally chose seat 17. She argued with the rightful seat owner until a security personnel had to intervene. When this woman spoke, I wondered if the fair version of Tyler Perry’s Madea had been mistakenly deported to Nigeria. She verbally fought the security man over the seat, abused the saleswoman who had sold her a ticket for seat number 27 and claimed she was a victim of an accident. Hence, she was not going to vacate the seat. This lady was Madea redefined. The look of her skin showed that she had done some things to it before. She had heavy lightening powder, mascara and lipstick on her face and matched it with a black scarf. Her fingernails had red polish on them while the nails on her toes blinked lemon green. I must confess that I did not know what I was doing when I sat in my rightful seat, very next to her. But I cannot seat in someone else’s seat so, it was my cross to bear.

The Bus stopped over at Lokoja
Within a minute after I sat, she confessed to me that she was not an accident victim and had lied to get the seat. Then, she muttered sarcastically, “God forgive me.” She said, “I am a woman of ... I was running an NGO in Lagos before I moved to Kaduna to become a minister of ...” Without asking her, she told me her challenges. She discussed how people judge and criticise her based on what they see on the outside (heavy makeup and trousers) whenever she went to minister. She said it is what she has on the inside that matters. I kept wondering if my quietness had misled her to think I was judging her in any way. She spoke endlessly and then asked if I was watching Big Brother Africa. “Not anymore ma,” I mentioned. When she asked why, I couldn’t tell her something straightaway so she quickly guessed, “Oh, is it because they are sleeping with themselves? That does not matter.” She opined that only cheap girls go there to misbehave. She also said that watching it would let me know more about human behaviour. I was strongly against some of her ideas but I shut up all through. I believed there was a reason I had to be stuck in a seat next to hers for more than 10hours. I had decided to shut up and listen once she said, “When you sat down, … told me you are my son and I should talk with you.” Sincerely, I found a lot of things moot but her point about criticism aroused some insights on that subject.

Back to Lagos
            Some folks have decided to thrust notoriety on a conservative pastor for the dressing of his son and the son’s wife during their wedding. First, they said he shouldn’t have allowed them get married under such conditions. The minister’s picture keeps appearing on new media as though he is guilty of a crime. Second, it is unfortunate that some have even questioned why he himself remarried after the demise of his first wife. In the first case, the dressing was only wrong because it projected what the doctrine of the pastor’s church does not promote. It is strange that those who do not even attend the church felt most concerned. It was his son (a much younger pastor) and the son’s wife who decided to wed the way they did. Following criticism and the demand for justice, there is old news that the couple has apologised and the young man has been suspended from his pastoral duties. Yet, some people are still hanging around the internet with doctored diagrams carrying various labels. In the second case, I would like to know if people would rather hear scandalous rumours about a pastor than know that the man remarried. What manner of men are these who proffer delicate criticism with closed eyes, blocked ears and open mouths? If you did not know, be informed that problem-solvers are critiques who address sensitive issues with objectivity. Once the problem is resolved, they move on. Perhaps, you should look for something else to discuss with a view to making it better.

The truth is sometimes too bitter for sweetening. Criticism is good when it questions what seems wrong and influences its correction through the promotion of what seems right. But when you carry a judging gavel and keep criticizing what has been justified already, you are simply playing the role of a devil. That is not the way of people who criticise to make things better. Think about it.